Critical Analysis Of The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is a semi-autobiographical novel in which Plath relays her own experiences through protagonist Esther Greenwood by highlighting the struggles she faced in navigating societal expectations, depression, and her own desires. Having spent time in college and later in multiple mental health institutions, Plath tells her story through Esther in a way that blends fiction and reality. Through Esther, we see Plath’s own interpretations of her triumphs, failures, values, and the slow but seemingly inevitable diminishment of her mental health.
The story starts with Esther Greenwood in New York City, where she is spending a month working at a magazine because she won a scholarship to a special summer program for female writers.
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Throughout this treatment, she becomes much more interested in suicide and seems completely focused on coming up with a plan that will work. In one introspective moment, she explains that “Lately I had considered going into the Catholic Church myself. I knew that Catholics thought killing yourself was an awful sin. But perhaps, if this was so, they might have a good way to persuade me out of it” (Plath, 1971, p. 164). After spending time at two separate privately-run facilities for mentally ill women, on the morning of her departure interview, the novel comes to an abrupt end. In a “biographical note” included at the end of the novel, we learn that Sylvia Plath committed suicide rather abruptly in her own life, at a similar moment in time when everything seemed to be looking up. This novel was published shortly before Plath’s own…show more content…
She thought Esther’s suicide attempt and disappearance were fascinating, and she ended up doing things intentionally so that she would get sent to the same private treatment center Esther was in for a time. Joan ended up dying by suicide shortly before Esther did. Esther’s depression was also shown to affect Buddy Willard. Since both his significant relationships, Joan and Esther, ended in psychiatric stays and worse, Buddy comes to visit Esther one day feeling very guilty. While there, he asks her with complete seriousness: “Do you think there’s something in me that drives women crazy?” (Plath, 1971, p. 237). Despite reassuring Buddy that her illness and Joan’s suicide had nothing to do with him, he was definitely affected by her situation. Arguably, so was Joan, as Joan at least pretended that she exhibited symptoms at first so that she could be put in the same private mental health clinic as Esther. Esther’s depression also brought shame and insecurity to her
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